Monday, November 14, 2011

Against the Hill Giants

G1 - Back Cover
Today I will follow on my last post on the classic AD&D module, G1 - Steading of the Hill Giant Chief.

First, lets take a look at these giants as they appear on the cover of G1 (similar illustrations appear within the module; see cover in last post). Also note the giant log hall/settlement of the back cover. These 1978 images don't quite jive with the near-caveman appearance and description of hill giants found in the 1st edition Monster Manual and later editions of the game.

I think I have found it more appealing to play hill giants like they appear in G1 - ie. more like shabby barbarians than neanderthals. This is a rather cosmetic thing, but I think ogres already do a good job of filling this niche, and with the just right amount of fantasy wonder. Why do it over again with any of the core races of giants? As mentioned before, this is a matter of taste and I suppose there's no reason we can't have caveman giants and giants that are more akin to barbarians of the Iron Age or Classical Antiquity.

As for the power levels, I realize the hill giant adventure was meant for 9th level characters and higher - and this was back in the day when the adventuring parties had seven or more characters. Mike Mearls reported on a lunchtime game on his take on G1 back in 2007 - check it out in the Wizards Archives here. Mearls goes for old school intent: eight 11th level characters. I think it would be worth trying out his recommendations, even with the Pathfinder power shift in characters and monsters.

However, I'm wondering if the module could be tweaked for the higher end of mid-level play, something like 7th or 8th character levels, with groups of six to eight players?

What brings me to this thought is the old school hit points of the hill giants in the module: most of them had like 38 or so hit points. You can get those kind of hit points by applying the advanced monster template to Pathfinder ogres. Not only would you get a tougher ogre, but a smarter one. At Challenge Rating 4 (one advanced ogre should be an average challenge for a party of four 4th level characters), this could be the ticket. If I recall the challenge rating math correctly, then about six advanced ogres would make a CR 10 encounter. That makes for challenging encounters for 7th level characters. Considering that a hill giant is supposed to be an average challenge for four characters of 7th level, the power downgrade seems about right. Six hill giants should make a CR 13 encounter - a similar difficulty level for 11th level characters.

Except for the chieftain's dining hall, the characters probably won't encounter that many giants (or advanced ogres as may be the case). This will probably require some tweaking, considering the hall had - I think - over 20 giants plus some ogres in it. Of course, I'm thinking the point of the adventure was to break up the dinner party and draw the giants into ambushes and tight spots whenever possible. Once you throw in places to hide and add windows (which seem oddly absent from the steading map, but not on the back cover illustration), then I think a good-sized party of 7th or 8th level characters has a chance.

One last thought, touching upon the map - it now seems to me that the steading was still a dungeon crawl despite its hill fort setting. I would even be tempted to redo the steading as a number of separate lodges instead of one big building with attached tower and auxiliary storage. Of course, there's also the basement, which hides the chieftain's treasure vault, a lost Cthulhu-type temple, and caverns full of rebellious orcs. Almost seems like an adventure in itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment